It's difficult, maybe futile at times, to tease out what behaviors and personality quirks are caused exactly by what. Formed by countless, obvious and subtle occurrences, prenatal givens, singular events, and continuous repetitions, we're a mix, a montage, a mash-up– works in progress. Only children are like everybody else. Birth rolls you a lot in life and you make do with what you get, test and improvise the rest, and hopefully continue to arrive at more than merely satisfactory results.
The skills, habits, and ticks that children develop in childhood as a consequence of their family structures obviously run deep. They form the literally innate patterns upon which all subsequent patterns are designed. This is why the shrink would like you to talk about your childhood, right? So, I am comfortable with the idea that being an only child plays a significant and often subconscious part in how I orient myself in the world, what I easily know, and what I need to try to unknow. As I get older, I more easily recognize "only children" in other adults. I see it, respect it, and I totally relate.
What I relate to in other adult only children is way cooler and beyond the frequently deployed grass-is-greener accusations of selfish, spoiled, or self-centered. The whole terrain of psychology, birth order, childhood development, personality, stereotypes, etc. is shifty business. It involves broad generalizations and inherently frequent exceptions which quickly devolves into a collapsed system of accusations and defensiveness. Not really the game I am interested in. Neuroses and bad habits are a buffet. Take your pick, help yourself– siblings or none. I'm more into honest accounting and generous assessments, with myself and others, a simple relaxed comfort in gently deepening my under-standings, welcoming the skin I'm in, the world we're in, and the woman I hope to become.
What I love about only children is the unique depth and sturdiness of our self-sufficiency, the intricately refined intelligence of our oh-so-remote little worlds, and the hilariously sensitive intensities upon which we develop and maintain our relationships. Other people and social interaction are necessary options, welcome, valued– but not an always agreeable norm. I easily default toward the consistency and comfort of solitude, my own reliable company. I crave companionship and demand privacy in mixed and sometimes unpredictable portions. My middle grounds, for better or worse, do not come very wide. Cat-like, I love attention, but only when I want attention and often I do not. But when I want attention, yes, I love attention! Only children develop a very low tolerance for boredom and have little patience for pretending something interests them when it does not. However, they have a way of holding their heads and attending to what does interests them, focused, deliberate, and self-assured, with complete attention, fully present and utterly receptive, vulnerably pressed right up against the very surface limits of themselves, senses open– but ready to turn and shut the doors with hardly a moments notice. When we are involved we involve ourselves whole heartedly. We adore with confidence and commitment, compassion and genuine enthusiasm. And of course, if something goes wrong, it is most certainly our fault, so we are very good at accepting responsibility for every event gone wrong, big or small.
I've loved it. I've hated it. I live with it. Still I have so much to learn from it. More often, I just want to laugh about it! train mama makes me laugh...